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Senate Panel to Subpoena Director of Information Technology

May 21, 2009 — Frustrated by not being able to get answers to their questions about the enhanced 911 system nearing completion on St. Croix, the Senate Public Safety Committee Thursday voted to subpoena the director of the Bureau of Information Technology for their next meeting.
John George, director of BIT, had been invited to attend Thursday's hearing to discuss the project. Instead, he sent deputy director Paul Arnold who, while giving a good overview of the project, said he was unable to discuss the progress of the communication towers — the specific area of the senators' interest — because he had not worked for the bureau long enough to know the background.
According to Sen, Sammuel Sanes, chairman of the committee, it was the second time George had spurned their invitation to testify and sent Arnold in his stead. After convening the panel at 9 a.m. and learning that George would not attend, Sanes moved that the committee issue a subpoena compelling him to attend the panel's next meeting, scheduled for June 24.
Sanes said the action wasn't taken out of anger, although he did feel the legislative branch was being "disrespected" by the executive branch, but the committee was being stymied in its effort to get the information it needed.
"The 911 center is extremely important to the safety of the people of the Virgin Islands," he said. "The reason we're here is to provide information to the public."
With the June 1 start of the hurricane season practically on the doorstep, the June 24 meeting falls just one day before the June 25 deadline for completing work on the St. Croix 911 system.
IBM is the main supplier of equipment and training for the call center, and its contract calls for the job to be completed by June 25. If it is not, the territory faces possible additional costs that could go as high as $500,000 to keep IBM's personnel and equipment on the island.
To avoid that, Arnold said if it looks as if the deadline will not be met, BIT will send the IBM people away and recall them only when everything is ready.
The St. Croix call center is 95 percent complete, Arnold told the panel, The building is done, the equipment is installed, most of the furniture is in place,
There's just one sticking point — or points, more precisely — the five towers on St. Croix needed to carry the radio signals from the call center to the various emergency responders. Unlike the current 911 system, which is primarily oriented to police calls, the new system will tie together all emergency response services, including police, fire fighters, emergency medical teams, environmental responders, National Guard and more, under the direction of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency.
The new towers are needed to provide coverage throughout the territory. The government owns four towers on St. Croix which were purchased years ago and have been lying on the sites ever since. The government was never able to raise the towers because of easement and setback issues.
Now, with little more than a month before the deadline, two of the towers are finally going up, according to Steven Linquist, director of field operations for LTI DataComm, the company actually erecting the towers.
If agreements cannot be completed to get the rest of the towers up in time, the bureau has developed a contingency plan to rent space on existing towers owned by private companies. Under questioning from Sen Nellie Rivera-O'Reilly, Arnold said the cost per town for leasing space would be in the neighborhood of $20,000 a year for each tower.
Asked by Sanes how confident he was that the St. Croix call center would be up and running on June 25, on a scale of 1 to 10, Arnold said, "about a 5."
Several senators expressed discontent with the lack of progress, saying the tower issues should have been resolved months ago. The delays have cost the territory money, Sen Terry "Positive" Nelson said.
Chuck DeVito, president and CEO of of Radio and Trucking Inc., the company which will install the equipment that goes on the towers, told the committee his relationship with George has been strained because of the delays.
"You believe the project is being hindered?" Sanes asked.
After a pause, DeVito replied, "At times I do believe that."
After the meeting, DeVito said he has been working with the V.I. government for four years.
"They've known for years, or at least for months, what needs to be done," he said after the hearing.
Sen. Wayne James noted that the official opening of hurricane season is less than two weeks away, and asked for reassurance that Virgin Islanders would have the security of the 911 system. Arnold replied that the islands already have a 911 system, and the enhanced system would be completed on St. Croix by the end of June. St. Thomas's system is under construction, and Arnold expected it to be ready to go online by the end of August.
The vote to subpoena George for the June 24 meeting was 4-0, with Senators Sanes, Nelson, James and Shawn Michael Malone all voting yes. Senators Celestino White, Patrick Sprauve and Alvin Willaims were absent.

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May 21, 2009 -- Frustrated by not being able to get answers to their questions about the enhanced 911 system nearing completion on St. Croix, the Senate Public Safety Committee Thursday voted to subpoena the director of the Bureau of Information Technology for their next meeting.
John George, director of BIT, had been invited to attend Thursday's hearing to discuss the project. Instead, he sent deputy director Paul Arnold who, while giving a good overview of the project, said he was unable to discuss the progress of the communication towers -- the specific area of the senators' interest -- because he had not worked for the bureau long enough to know the background.
According to Sen, Sammuel Sanes, chairman of the committee, it was the second time George had spurned their invitation to testify and sent Arnold in his stead. After convening the panel at 9 a.m. and learning that George would not attend, Sanes moved that the committee issue a subpoena compelling him to attend the panel's next meeting, scheduled for June 24.
Sanes said the action wasn't taken out of anger, although he did feel the legislative branch was being "disrespected" by the executive branch, but the committee was being stymied in its effort to get the information it needed.
"The 911 center is extremely important to the safety of the people of the Virgin Islands," he said. "The reason we're here is to provide information to the public."
With the June 1 start of the hurricane season practically on the doorstep, the June 24 meeting falls just one day before the June 25 deadline for completing work on the St. Croix 911 system.
IBM is the main supplier of equipment and training for the call center, and its contract calls for the job to be completed by June 25. If it is not, the territory faces possible additional costs that could go as high as $500,000 to keep IBM's personnel and equipment on the island.
To avoid that, Arnold said if it looks as if the deadline will not be met, BIT will send the IBM people away and recall them only when everything is ready.
The St. Croix call center is 95 percent complete, Arnold told the panel, The building is done, the equipment is installed, most of the furniture is in place,
There's just one sticking point -- or points, more precisely -- the five towers on St. Croix needed to carry the radio signals from the call center to the various emergency responders. Unlike the current 911 system, which is primarily oriented to police calls, the new system will tie together all emergency response services, including police, fire fighters, emergency medical teams, environmental responders, National Guard and more, under the direction of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency.
The new towers are needed to provide coverage throughout the territory. The government owns four towers on St. Croix which were purchased years ago and have been lying on the sites ever since. The government was never able to raise the towers because of easement and setback issues.
Now, with little more than a month before the deadline, two of the towers are finally going up, according to Steven Linquist, director of field operations for LTI DataComm, the company actually erecting the towers.
If agreements cannot be completed to get the rest of the towers up in time, the bureau has developed a contingency plan to rent space on existing towers owned by private companies. Under questioning from Sen Nellie Rivera-O'Reilly, Arnold said the cost per town for leasing space would be in the neighborhood of $20,000 a year for each tower.
Asked by Sanes how confident he was that the St. Croix call center would be up and running on June 25, on a scale of 1 to 10, Arnold said, "about a 5."
Several senators expressed discontent with the lack of progress, saying the tower issues should have been resolved months ago. The delays have cost the territory money, Sen Terry "Positive" Nelson said.
Chuck DeVito, president and CEO of of Radio and Trucking Inc., the company which will install the equipment that goes on the towers, told the committee his relationship with George has been strained because of the delays.
"You believe the project is being hindered?" Sanes asked.
After a pause, DeVito replied, "At times I do believe that."
After the meeting, DeVito said he has been working with the V.I. government for four years.
"They've known for years, or at least for months, what needs to be done," he said after the hearing.
Sen. Wayne James noted that the official opening of hurricane season is less than two weeks away, and asked for reassurance that Virgin Islanders would have the security of the 911 system. Arnold replied that the islands already have a 911 system, and the enhanced system would be completed on St. Croix by the end of June. St. Thomas's system is under construction, and Arnold expected it to be ready to go online by the end of August.
The vote to subpoena George for the June 24 meeting was 4-0, with Senators Sanes, Nelson, James and Shawn Michael Malone all voting yes. Senators Celestino White, Patrick Sprauve and Alvin Willaims were absent.